Wei Lingxuan was the least willing to admit what she had seen.
Calmly, she asked her cousin, “Why do you reckon he went for the fourth ring?”
“I suppose since he knew he was bound to fail, so he might as well go for broke.” Contempt surfaced on Wei Qingyi’s face. “This way, when he exits, it’s not as shameful because he failed in challenging level four synchronization.”
“What do you guys think?” Wei Lingxuan looked towards the crowd.
“I agree with brother Qingyi.”
“This guy must be a masochistic freak who enjoys being shamed by others.”
The geniuses of the sanctum each had their own understanding, but at the center of it all they agreed on one thing: Li Tianming was a joke.
“Just look at him, withstanding the spiritual energy storm of the fourth ring. He’ll be dead in minutes,” Wei Lingxuan said.
“Who do you think will be blamed for his death?” Wei Qingyi brought up a legitimate question.
Wei Lingxuan rolled her eyes. “Who’s there to blame but himself? The sanctum has always warned disciples to strictly abide by their own synchronization level with the rock, and to not go beyond their own limits. It’s his own fault for challenging the rules.”
“I agree, it has got nothing to do with Wei Lingxuan.”
“Xuan’er had been nice enough to him already, given her identity and the power of the Wei Clan in the sanctum.”
Wei Lingxuan was pleased with all the compliments from the spectating disciples. For now she would wait, not for the one hour to pass, but for Li Tianming to collapse on the spot.
She felt like it was about time. Three minutes had almost passed, and the girl even wanted to start a countdown. She had tried enduring the fourth ring before, and she knew the difficulty of the task. Back then, she had stayed there for around seven minutes, which had nearly incapacitated her. Luckily for her, her father mounted a timely rescue, and ever since then she dared not stick her foot into the fourth ring ever again.
Recognising and adhering to their synchronization level was one of the basic lessons for a disciple in Heaven’s Sanctum.
Wei Lingxuan took a glance at the nervous-looking Jiang Feiling, and smirked.
“For someone this pretty, it's a shame that she has problems here.” She pointed at her head.
“I guess I can always try for Princess Qing, she’s smart at least,” Wei Qingyi said.
“My sixth-apprentice sister? She’s not naive, you know,” Wei Lingxuan replied.
“Just you wait and see, Sis Xuan. You gotta believe in your younger brother’s charisma,” Wei Qingyi said, adjusting his hair.
As they continued to talk, Wei Lingxuan noticed that quite some time had passed. Yet, what she’d expected to see had yet to happen. She wasn’t worried though, since there was still plenty of time and it should be happening anytime soon.
An awkward silence began to well up in the Flameyellow Pagoda, as everyone had their eyes on Li Tianming. Seven minutes had passed. Wei Lingxuan curved her lips, knowing that that was how long she managed to last. And yet... why wasn’t anything happening to Li Tianming?
“Shouldn’t the spiritual energy storm tear him apart by now?” Wei Lingxuan was beginning to lose her calm.
“Sis Xuan, he is still cultivating...” Wei Qingyi forced out a reply.
Wei Lingxuan rubbed her eyes, reconfirming the fact that Li Tianming was at least on the same level as her. That thought alone was enough to freeze her blood.
“Wait… If he had stayed in the third ring, he probably could last the entire hour, right?” Wei Lingxuan stared at her cousin.
“Yes, Sis Xuan, you might have underestimated him.” Wei Qingyi gritted his teeth. In fact, he wanted Li Tianming dead more than Wei Lingxuan did.
Wei Lingxuan was puzzled. “But how could that be possible? His age and his cultivation level all pointed to the fact that he had no talent. His bloodline was tainted by that pig from Flamehaven, after all.”
“I can’t think of a reason either. But luckily for us, he chose the fourth ring, and he’ll pay the price for that. Sis Xuan, you really escaped by the skin of your teeth this time round,” Wei Qingyi said.
Wei Lingxuan agreed with that, heaving a sigh of relief.
“Just die already,” she cursed in her mind, her eyes still glued to Li Tianming.
Every moment that passed was a form of torture for Wei Lingxuan and those around her. The only exception was Jiang Feiling, and she knew better than anyone that Li Tianming hadn’t just withstood the storm, but he was also getting stronger! She stood in the direction closest to Li Tianming, her heartened expression a soothing visage in the pagoda.
Fifteen minutes passed.
Thirty minutes had passed!
As the spectators watched on in horror, forty five minutes had passed, and Li Tianming only had to spend another fifteen inside the ring! And from the looks of it, that was exactly what he would do!
Everyone in the pagoda was counting down in panic. For the past thirty minutes, their expressions had changed from smirks and jeers to one of confusion and frustration. They knew that there was a gamble at stake, and once Li Tianming walked out of the ring, Wei Lingxuan would…
The high and mighty princess of the Wei Manor, licking Li Tianming’s shoes? To call that an explosive development would be an understatement.
When the one hour countdown first started, chatter and discussions had reigned, but now, silence pressed down on the eardrums of everyone present, their eyes fixated on Li Tianming. No one uttered anything, because they did not want to risk offending the two Weis.
As for the two Weis, their expressions were the least sightly of all. It was a mixture of anger, frustration and all kinds of emotions. On one hand, they refused to believe that Li Tianming actually had a level four synchronization level, and on the other, they thought of the bet that they had. It was a gamble with their pride and honor as stakes!
Wei Lingxuan had never expected herself to lose, but Li Tianming’s performance now had made her desperate. Anyone would see that Li Tianming had not only endured the spiritual energy storm in the fourth ring, but he had even gotten stronger from the hour of cultivation!
That was simply a miracle.
It didn’t take long before the crucial moment arrived. The clock in the pagoda had indicated that an hour had passed, and yet Li Tianming was still alive and kicking in the fourth ring. It was as if the spiritual energy storm couldn’t even touch Li Tianming, even as he cultivated in front of the rock.
And with that, it was over. Wei Lingxuan had lost the gamble. In abject horror, the disciples watched as Li Tianming ended his cultivation. Man and chicken stood up to face the rest, a sadistic smile on their faces as they looked towards Wei Lingxuan. Amongst the silence, the two of them stepped out of the rings and stopped before Wei Lingxuan.
“C’mon, what are you waiting for? Can’t you see everyone here is waiting? Just stick out your tongue already.” Li Tianming pressured, his position as the victor undeniable.
Wei Lingxuan’s fist was clenched, and her face purple. The look on her face was getting increasingly more dangerous, yet her body was trembling.
“Li Tianming, don’t you dare! Remember your identity!” Wei Qingyi scolded. That said, even he could not maintain a facade of justice, since it had been a fair gamble both sides took up. Clearly, they were the ones that had lost, and there was a price to pay for that. Especially since they were from the reputed Wei Manor.
“Just forget it, Li Tianming, you have won today.”
“We admit that we have underestimated you, and we can all vouch that you can indeed reach level four synchronization level.”
Many of the disciples stood at Wei Lingxuan’s side. Their tone and words were courteous, but the look they gave him was clearly a sign of warning.
“You have achieved your aim, and we can apologise to you. No one in the sanctum will ever laugh at you for lacking talent again.”
“That’s right, just let Wei Lingxuan off this time. It's not nice for a man to do this to a girl.”
More and more people stood around Wei Lingxuan as they all but coerced Li Tianming. They weren’t just trying to convince Li Tianming through words, but instead it was the aura that the group was giving off that tried to pressure Li Tianming into letting her off.
“They are right. Li Tianming, I take back my words. I’ll no longer call you a disgrace of the sanctum. We can forget about everything that happened here and outside just now. Don’t miss this chance!” Wei Qingyi stepped in front of Li Tianming, and blocked Wei Lingxuan with his body. His intention was clear — Wei Lingxuan’s wager was too much for her to carry out. In exchange, they were willing to forgive Li Tianming for the events that had transpired.
“Alright, alright, it’s time to leave. If not, when the supernal mentors come here later, we will get scolded for not cultivating.”
“That’s right, we are all disciples of the sanctum, don’t take things too seriously.”
There were just too many people trying to protect Wei Lingxuan. They were all pressing onto Li Tianming, forcing him to drop the bet.
But, would that be possible?
Against the pressure radiating off the mediators, Li Tianming suddenly smirked. The disdain in his expression was obvious, instantly silencing most of the disciples.